County supervisors voted Tuesday to let military veterans who were disabled during their service, prisoners of war or Medal of Honor winners use County parks and campsites for free up to seven nights a year.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who brought the item to the Board for approval, said there was no way to properly thank military veterans — especially those who had been hurt, captured or exhibited bravery above and beyond the call of duty. But Jacob said she hoped the County’s action would send a “small but thoughtful message” of appreciation.
“All the free park passes in the world will not do justice to these selfless men and women,” Jacob said. “I look at this as another small way to say ‘thank you.’ And I believe we should continue to say thank you every chance we get.”
The Board voted 4-0 to approve the new pass. Supervisor Bill Horn, a Vietnam Vet, former Marine, Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, recused himself from the vote.
The County program would piggy-back on an already-existing state program, the Distinguished Veteran Pass. The County’s program, which is expected to take effect soon, would recognize the state pass and provide user discounts for the County’s two-dozen-plus day parks and eight camping parks. Eligible veterans would still have to pay the standard $5 fee to reserve County campsites in advance.
Veterans who would like to apply for the Distinguished Veteran Pass can do so at the state’s website. According to the state, California has distributed more than 22,900 Distinguished Veteran Passes since 1979.
The state also reported that in 2010, its veteran pass-holders accounted for more than 4,000 overnight visits at state parks in San Diego County, and 24,000 statewide. State officials reported that the average Distinguished Veteran Pass was used 13 times a year for day use and six times a year for overnight camping.
The County’s new pass would allow eligible veterans to stay overnight for free at County campsites up to seven nights a year.